Friday, March 19, 2010

How a helmet saved my head and eventually won me another helmet...(Coconut Week Continues!)

I must be the luckiest gal in the whole horse world this week...imagine my delight at receiving the note that I'd been chosen one of two winners in the Equestrian Collection/Troxel Helmet Story contest! YaHoooooo!!!!

A week ago or so they asked folks to post their helmet stories and so I told mine. Equestrian Collections would pick one winner and Troxel would pick the other. Apparently Troxel, unaware of my current reign as Equestrian Collections Fan of the Month, picked my story as their winner. The folks at Equestrian Collections were surprised and equally delighted for me when they received my name from the Troxel folks...and now I get my choice of Troxel Helmets, a Troxel Helmet Tote and a Barn Beanie!!!

Here's the winning story, by the way....I think I can post it here since *I* wrote it ;-) (convenient/easy blog post filler too, I might add!)

"A year and a half ago I was riding in our arena and my horse spooked when she stepped in a a walk ...but jumped so far sideways that my body got thrown to the left while she went to the right. My foot got caught in iron and so I hit the ground in a V. That threw my head with even more momentum into the ground than if I'd just landed flat. I got the wind knocked out of me, broke a rib and fractured a vertebrae but I had my Troxel Helmet on and other than being a little rattled, my head survived! Someone 30 yards away heard the whack of my helmet onto the ground & came running to help. I'm certain my skull would have been fractured had I not been wearing it. I know it wasn't a huge riding adventure or high jumps or anything. It was just a leisurely stroll at home. Something I fear too many people think is just safe so they don't reach for the helmet even though they might if they were going on a trail or something they considered more dangerous. Just two days ago here in Washington State we lost rider who went out on the trail alone without a helmet. For me it's a helmet...every time!!! I used to grab my helmet, tote it down to the arena, do my ground work and put it on before I mounted. I've gotten lazy and I don't like the extra item in my hands so awhile back I started putting t it on my head to "hold" it and now it's a habit that includes putting it on in the tack room. I also have to say that Troxel's exchange policy was amazing. I sent in the helmet I was wearing during my accident and for a small fee they sent me a new one. I was so impressed that when it came time to buy a velvet show helmet, there was not even a question about what brand I would's Troxel all the way for me! "

I'm extra proud and honored to be a part of the contest that brings up the issue of riding with helmets...every time!

Over the last few weeks there have been two cases on my radar that bring home the issue of the benefits of riding with helmets.

On March 3rd 2010, 2008 US Olympic Dressage Rider, Courtney King-Dye fell while riding her horse in a schooling session. It's reported that her horse slipped and Courtney suffered serious head trauma. She's been in a coma ever since. As recently as March 18, she has showed small signs of improvement but is still in very serious condition, but remains on a ventilator. Her support team remains encouraged and I read that the doctors say her age and athletic conditioning will be major factors in her ability to recover from this. Because of the media reports on this case and the updates her husband has made to her website, we see a whole story of how this affects not only Courtney, but everyone who her life touches. It's still not clear from what I've read that she was or was not wearing a helmet. But it's a huge argument either way for wearing one.

The local story I mentioned in my contest story is about Candace Morrison, a high school chior teacher from Battle Ground, Washington. She died of blunt force trauma to the head from an apparent fall from her horse while riding on a logging road on March 10th. Her horse returned to the barn without Candace which apparently prompted an immediate search for her. She was not wearing a helmet.

While it's impossible to say for certain that either of these tragedies could have been prevented had the riders been wearing helmets, it's safe to guess that it's a very strong possibility that their chances would have been significantly improved had they done so.

My sincerest thoughts surround their loved ones. In Courtney King-Dye's case, I hope she will recover and be able to follow her passion for horses again some day.

The contest that Equestrian Collections & Troxel held brought more than 125 stories of people who survived because they had worn a helmet. It's sad to say that those who didn't can't tell their stories but I know their families & friends would support the movement to encourage people to wear helmets every time they ride.

My contest entry doesn't tell the whole story, so here's my chance to do so...

We were walking along very casually. I was actually pretty happy about the progress we'd made and was basking in the satisfaction of a good ride. As we approached the small puddle (I suspect a pee-puddle caused by a horse that might have been in the arena before us) I noted that she had been avoiding it and I started to think about her fear of water...wondering if it had anything to do with her days back on the horrible pasture and her fear of that creek. As we approached it I had no idea she'd react the way she did...but in some way I think I brought it up for her. We seem connected like that ... a lot... and over-react, she did!!!

She did go right and I went left. Sue tells me she saw it and I looked like Wylie Coyote going over the cliff...I hung there in the air for a moment before gravity pulled me straight down. I actually remember the moment I knew I was off the saddle and thinking "this isn't going to end well..." Sue said the sound of my helmet on the ground was loud and distinctive. She ran to the arena and she was pretty sure she was going to have to provide emergency care. (Sue and Scott are Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do & own their own studio...they're also first aid and CPR certified!)

To Coconut's credit, although she spooked, she didn't go far. With me attached at the stirrup that could have made a bad situation a million times worse. I was knocked out briefly but when I came too & opened my eyes, it was that cute pink nose sniffing my face and those big Arabian eyes asking "why are you down there?" At this point Sue was at my head telling me not to move and Scott was saying he would get the horse so she wouldn't step on me. I knew more than anything else at that moment that she wasn't going to step on me.

I recall Sue yelling "Are you ok?" and initially I tried to answer but because I couldn't breathe I could not speak. I was completely aware that I could do neither. I actually thought to myself "Oh no...I've injured my back and broken the thing that makes me I going to die?...and am I going to be totally aware of it?" :( This goes back to my personal understanding that all of the nerves that run your body and functions are housed in your spine and an injury to your spine can actually sever the nerve, leaving a particular function...non-functioning. The fact that I had the wherewithal to go through all of those steps in my mind was probably an indication that I could function ok...but when you're in the situation, your brain goes a mile a minute. I wasn't aware exactly how close or far Sue was to me but I do remember trying to form the words that I was still in there, even if I couldn't move yet. From my position I saw I had a leg in the air. Not realizing it was in that position because it was caught in the iron, I immediately thought I must be OK because my leg could move (I didn't quite put it all together that I hadn't actually tried to move it) but it got me thinking that I had movement and since I knew I couldn't breathe, I reached out, pointing to my chest trying to signal to her why I couldn't answer. I knew that I would need to start breathing soon if I was going to get through this so I focused all my energy on taking a long slow breath in and repeating that until I eventually inflated my lungs enough to start breathing on my own. What a scary process that is, especially not knowing if it's going to work. Obviously it did!

Once Scott removed my foot from the iron, I drew up my knee and placed my foot flat on the ground. Since that worked, I did the same with the other foot. I was relieved to discover that my legs were functioning. They told me not to move and asked if I needed an ambulance... by now my wounded pride was kicking in and I asked if I could please try to get up first. If I couldn't I was resolved to let them call in help. Sheer will and determination got me onto my side and eventually on to all fours. They did give me a hand up from that position and I was able to walk. All of these little accomplishments were huge at that point and now I just wanted to go home.

Scott helped me put Coconut away and I went to get into my car (a stick shift no less!) and I started to feel that I was very stiff, very sore and there was a lot of pain associated with certain movements, like turning to get in, shifting gears, etc... I got home and laid down and went to sleep. When I woke up I could not twist my upper body to roll over to get out of bed nor could I sit straight up. I had to inch myself over the course of about 30 minutes, little by little until I could get myself to the edge of the bed and my legs over to the floor and use my leg strength to stand myself upright. I would not return to the bed for a week, instead I slept in the reclining end of our family room couch.

The next day was a training workshop at SAFE and I was not going to miss that so I somehow got myself to Monroe and walked around all stiff and sore. By the time I left I knew this was not going to be a quick recovery and I decided I'd go to the doctor on Monday. There they took an x-ray of my spine and found a lateral fracture on the lip of one of my vertebrae. The good news was that it did not break the main structure of the vertebrae or endanger the nerve. My hip, however, was off balance and they suggested physical therapy once I was out of pain. I knew from a previous experience that a chiropractor could help with hip displacement and so I made an appointment with mine. When he tried to lay me on my stomach to adjust my hip I discovered a pain worse than any I'd had so far... and it was going to be impossible for me to do so. He was able to adjust my hip standing up and he decided not to do any upper back or torso work because of the pain.

Both Doctors told me 6-8 weeks of no-riding! Argh!!!! That meant that I would end up with exactly one week of riding before the SAFE show and I asked one of my barn friends, Stephanie, to please ride Coconut for me to keep her working in the meantime. I was, however, able to do some ground work with her. I started trying to figure out what classes I could do with her and discovered showmanship video's on YouTube! I'm certain I like halter & showmanship so much these days because of the time I spent doing the one thing I *could* do with my horse when I was "ground work"!!!

We got to the 6 week mark and I went in for anther adjustment. My regular Chiropractor was off that day and his partner was training an intern. He was telling her about my injury and how they were worried about my fracture and a possible broken rib but that I seemed to be doing so much better. I agreed! He decided to do a full adjustment on me and when he did the upper body adjustment we all heard the snap...of my rib!! It turns out that I had broken it in the fall...rebroke it about a week later while trying to stretch forward while painting a chair (yeah, I don't usually sit around doing nothing...) and now it was broken again...and I knew that meant ANOTHER 6 weeks of recovery & no riding in the SAFE Show., I did!! I entered everything I could...and even got in a Novice walk-only class (in saddle...with a back brace). It was frustrating and I felt like I didn't get to do everything I'd hoped to but I ended up having a good time and my friends and I packed up our horses and left early. Half way home I got the call from my husband asking why I'd left the show before I got my award. Award?!?!?! What award?!?!? Apparently we'd earned the High Point Novice award with a BIG pretty ribbon and prize basket! How exciting...I wish I'd been there to get it in person.

So that's my big injury story...and I'm glad to be able to share it. I think I'm able to do so because I was wearing a helmet.

Today I was asked if I mentioned in my contest story that I should wear one to clean the house...a little joke about how I actually did fracture my skull, knocked myself out and got a concussion recently while cleaning my bathroom (we don't have time for THAT story, besides, it's not horse related!). My husband did mention at the time that I probably should have been wearing my helmet! At least I have one (or more).

The big lesson here is that helmet save lives. I care about my family enough not to risk an injury that that would change their lives dramatically because I was seriously injured or killed. I also kind of like having brain function and after going through the accident and being fully aware of what was happening to me, even though I couldn't control it at the moment, I had a little glimpse of what it might be like to be alive and aware but unable to move or communicate. THAT is downright frightening!!!!

So please....I beg you to please wear a helmet when you ride. I care, your loved ones care and believe me, YOU will care too if you're in that position.

NOW I have to decide WHICH helmet to choose....this is tough and I could use some input...

I own the Spirit in Periwinkle, which is the model I had when I took my spill (and Troxel replaced for a small fee) and use as my every day helmet...and because I was so thrilled with my head being in one piece and their excellent service, there was no question in my mind in purchasing the Grand Prix Classic Black Velvet when wanted a show helmet. So now I get to have a fantasy/fun helmet and I've had my eye on that new Cheyenne Rowdy in Black for awhile ... although I've kinda coveted the regular Cheyenne in Black with hot pink stitching and accents too...and most who know me, know I'm a pink girl! The black/pink combo doesn't appear to be available on the Equestrian Collection site and my guess is those might be my choices...if's the Cheyenne Rowdy!! There are lots of other tempting choices too...oh what's a girl to do!?!?!?!

I don't want to get in trouble for using the images so I'll link them to the websites (one each):
Black Cheyenne Rowdy on Equestrian Collections
Black/Pink Cheyenne on Troxel

What do you think? Feel free to post comments below!


  1. I like the pink one! :) That's my worst fear, my foot staying in the stirrup. I bought peacock irons when I bought Denali. They've saved my butt twice now (Funny when I say "save" because my butt defendantly STILL hurts) So glad you're okay and I had no idea that you were hurt at the SAFE show. You're always so cheery!!

    I agree with the helmet. I wear mine NO MATTER WHAT.

  2. wait til my next post...cheery...injuries CAN have a funny side...